Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stop Stealing Dreams

Sharing some select highlights from Seth Godin's manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams

If school’s function is to create the workers we need to fuel our economy, we need to change school, because the workers we need have changed as well. The mission used to be to create homogenized, obedient, satisfied workers and pliant, eager consumers.   No longer.

There are more doctors, scientists, enlightened businesses, and engaged teachers in a society that values education. Sure, education is expensive, but living in a world of ignorance is even more expensive.

Our culture has a dreaming problem. It was largely created by the current regime in schooling, and it’s getting worse.  Dreamers in school are dangerous. Dreamers can be impatient, unwilling to become well-rounded, and most of all, hard to fit into existing systems. One more question to ask at the school board meeting: “What are you doing to fuel my kid’s dreams?”

No, we do not need you to create compliance. No, we do not need you to cause memorization. And no, we do not need you to teach students to embrace the status quo.

Amplified by the Web and the connection revolution, human beings are no longer rewarded most for work as compliant cogs. Instead, our chaotic world is open to the work of passionate individuals, intent on carving their own paths.  That’s the new job of school. Not to hand a map to those willing to follow it, but to inculcate leadership and restlessness into a new generation.

Our new civic and scientific and professional life, though, is all about doubt. About questioning the status quo, questioning marketing or political claims, and most of all, questioning what’s next.  The obligation of the new school is to teach reasonable doubt. Not the unreasonable doubt of the wild-eyed heckler, but the evidence-based doubt of the questioning scientist and the reason-based doubt of the skilled debater.

On the other hand, creative jobs lead to more creative jobs. Self-starting, self- reliant, initiative-taking individuals often start new projects that need new workers. In my opinion, the now politicized role of “job creator” has nothing at all to do with tax cuts and everything to do with people who trained to have the guts to raise their hands and say, “I’m starting.”

David Weinberger writes, (#65)
As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it. It’s not that the network is becoming a conscious super-brain. Rather, knowledge is becoming inextricable from—literally unthinkable without—the network that enables it.

If failure is not an option, then neither is success.  The only source of innovation is the artist willing to be usefully wrong. A great use of the connection economy is to put together circles of people who challenge each other to be wronger and wronger still—until we find right.

A citizen who seeks the truth has far more opportunity to find it than ever before. But that takes skill and discernment and desire. Memorizing a catechism isn’t the point, because there’s too much to memorize and it changes anyway. No, the goal has to be creating a desire (even better, a need) to know what’s true, and giving people the tools to help them discern that truth from the fiction that so many would market to us.